Pancake Day/Fat Tuesday – Easy peasy scotch pancakes!

Pancake day! Or, as other countries name it more appropriately, Fat Tuesday! Seriously guys, it’s the new Valentines day! It doesn’t matter if you’re single, in a relationship, or even if “it’s complicated”, a good pancake will make you happy. So get celebrating!

I know, I know, at time of press it is not strictly pancake day yet. But a celebration as important as this takes preparation! You want those Pancake Day pancakes to be the best you’ve ever had, right? I mean, technically you’re supposed to be fasting for 40 days after this… (pfft!) Lucky for you I already went through the terrible ordeal of testing delicious pancakes in advance, so you can relax and put your feet up until the Big Day…

By the way, these are Scotch pancakes. Not those namby pamby, wimpy, floppy French things. We’re talking about nice fat pancakes here. Apparently some people call them drop scones, but I’ve always known them as Scotch pancakes. And they are SERIOUSLY easy so no excuses!

SCOTCH PANCAKES

Makes around 8 small but fat pancakes. Enough for 2-3 people depending on how greedy you are!

For the pancakes:

  • 150g self raising flour (or use plain flour with a teaspoon of baking powder added)
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150ml milk
  • Small amount of butter for frying

Suggested toppings:

  • 2 big tablespoons of maple syrup per person
  • a small pat of butter
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a sprinkle of sugar
  • all of the above!

Method:

1. Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl in any order.

2. Beat with a whisk until any lumps disappear and mixture seems smooth and relatively thick.

3. Melt some butter in a frying pan to coat the bottom of the pan. Get the pan up to a medium heat – just enough so that the butter seems to bubble slightly.

4. Dollop small amounts of the pancake batter into the pan, to form roughly circular pancakes around 4 inches/10cms wide. Leave space in between of course, so you don’t end up with one giant mega-pancake. This shouldn’t be too hard because the batter is so thick it doesn’t spread out very much before it starts to set.

5. Fry the pancakes for around 1 minute on each side. If it takes more than one and a half minutes for one side to become golden this is a sign that you need to turn the heat up slightly. It is ready to flip if you lift up the pancake slightly on one side and you can see that the underside is golden, and the uncooked batter on top is not too liquidy to flip.

6. Serve with big dollops of maple syrup, a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkling of sugar, or all of the above!

Notes:

When I say flip, I don’t mean do ridiculous show-off pancake acrobatics. Just get a spatula and turn it over. It’s so simple. Unless you think tossing food in the air and potentially splatting batter all over your kitchen is great fun – in which case, be my guest…

If you are cooking these in a small frying pan, simply preheat your oven to its lowest temperature and place the pancakes on a plate in the oven as you go along. At such a low heat, the flavour and texture will not be affected. Once the pancakes are all made, you can even cover the whole plate of them in foil and leave them in the oven for up to 2 hours without any change in yumminess! This means if you have guests you can make them in bulk and serve them all in one go – sociable pancakes!

Have a great Fat Tuesday everyone! Hope somebody out there might find this recipe useful!

 

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Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes – A.K.A. Cartoon Cupcakes

Ask a kid to draw a cupcake and it will generally resemble something like this:

That’s right, the cartoon cupcake. In reality, rarely made or eaten. In imaginationland, every cupcake looks like this. And for the first time ever I have actually made and consumed one of these. As soon as you’ve made and decorated these, it almost seems as if reality is beginning to warp around you. Is this real life or just a cartoon dream?

By the way, they taste great too, with just a hint of almond, although you’ll be needing a very sweet tooth if you wish to eat all twelve.

No pictures of the baking process this time as I am supposed to be working on my dissertations rather than taking pictures of mixing bowls and icing sugar – I’m sure the instructions should do though, as they are not very complicated (apart from a bit of jam implant surgery…).

Yum

CARTOON CUPCAKES

Makes 12 cucpakes

For the cakes:

  • 150g/5½oz softened butter or margarine
  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar
  • 100g/3½oz self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoonbaking powder
  • 60g/2¼oz ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 90g/3¼oz raspberry, strawberry or cherry jam

For the topping:

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably squeezed freshly from a lemon rather than the bottled variety)
  • 12 glacé cherries (yum)

Method:

1.Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Prepare a  tray with 12 cupcake/fairy cake cases.

2. If your butter is too hard, give it a little whizz in the microwave until it feels wibbly when you poke it with a spoon. Cream the butter together with the caster sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl with the milk – actually, I usually use a mug or a glass for beating eggs to prevent mess, but you can be a rebel and use a bowl if you wish…

4. Combine the flour with the baking powder and ground almonds. Add to the butter and sugar a little at a time, gradually adding the eggs in between, and stirring as you go.

5. Beat it all together until the ingredients seem well-combined, and spoon the mixture equally into the 12 cases.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and starting to look slightly golden. I have found the best way to check this is to use a wooden toothpick or skewer – poke one of the cakes in the middle and if it comes out clean, it’s done. If it comes out with gooey bits of cake mix on it, definitely not done!

7. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before starting the jam implantation surgery… This is actually surprisingly easy. You don’t need a syringe or any kind of professional jam-injecting device. You don’t even need an apple corer as some sources suggest. All you need is the wrong end of a teaspoon!

8. Using the handle end of a teaspoon, scoop a hole out of the middle of the cake. It’s up to you how big you make it – depends how much jam you want in the middle! Then, using a different teaspoon handle, stuff jam into the middle until the hole is filled up with jam.  You obviously can’t replace all the sponge you scooped out but try and just cover over the top bit of the hole with a piece of the sponge, like a kind of lid. The transplant is complete, bwhahahaha! Simples…

9. Now you can just ice the cakes normally. Stir the lemon juice into the sifted icing sugar and smooth the icing onto the cupcakes with a spoon. Don’t worry if it’s a bit messy, cartoon cupcakes never have a perfectly round topping of icing, they’re always pleasantly dribbly! Top each cupcake with a cherry and you’re done! Now stand back, admire your cartoon cupcakes, take a bite and drift into the land of childhood imagination and jammy delight.

Cartoon cupcakes

Stage 2: Assembling the perfect Italian style pizza – Prosciutto, Mascarpone and Rocket

Right, now you’ve made the perfect dough, how can you turn it into the best, tastiest, most amazing-est pizza possible? By using this holy trinity of Italian ingredients – Proscuitto, Mascarpone and Rocket!

I guess this is time for a disclaimer… I say Italian style to distinguish this pizza from the deep pan, greasy monstrosities that you find at your local takeway/American pizza chain. Having spent four years as a student, and a lifetime as a glutton, that type of pizza does have a special place in my heart – ah, that magical box smell and the endlessly stretchy cheese – but the pizza I am talking about in these recipes definitely has a lot more in common with the more authentic, thin crust pizzas of Italy. However, I can’t vouch for any of my techniques being truly authentic – for one I roll the pizzas instead of stretching them by hand as I always get a better result that way! I’m sure there are many other discrepancies Italian pizza-purists would find with my recipe. Personally though, I find these pizzas as delicious as any of the good Italian pizzas I have sampled in my 21 years.

The finished pizzas

Here's how the finished product looks!

PROSCIUTTO, MASCARPONE AND ROCKET PIZZA

Makes enough for two 12 inch thin-crust pizzas. Yes, I know the dough recipe was for three pizzas… But as it’s just my fiance and I eating, I usually make some bread rolls for tomorrow’s lunch with the dough for the third pizza. If you want to make three, just make a little more sauce and perhaps invest in an extra mozarella ball.

If you were following my pizza dough recipe, you should now have a nice ball of dough that has been freshly risen, knocked back, and risen again. If you made the dough in advance, it can be kept it in the fridge until you need to use it. I have kept dough in the fridge for up to 24 hours before and it still came out perfect. I have heard you can keep it up to 3 or 4 days in the fridge but it might not be as good by that point.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes (I use half a 400g tin)
  •  1 small onion or half a large onion
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 100ml vermouth or white wine (or water if you must)

Pizza toppings:

  • 40g prosciutto
  • Around 10 heaped teaspoons of mascarpone
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • Homemade pizza sauce (ingredients above)
  • Handful of rocket
  • Small handful of basil
  • Fresh black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 – or as hot as your oven can go really! Make sure it has lots of time to preheat because you want it as hot as possible.  While your dough is in the last hour of rising, start making the pizza sauce as follows!

Finely dice a small onion (or half a big one). I used a red onion because I didn’t have anything else available but a regular onion is better really.

Chopping the onion

If you have a food processor/blender to puree the sauce at the end, I wouldn’t worry too much about dicing the onion ultra fine. I tend to chop it reasonably fine as I don’t have too much of an issue with watery eyes and I find it fries faster this way.

Diced onion

Frying onions… Now that’s an interesting concept in the world of food bloggery/online recipes. You will often find recipes telling you to “sautee” onions. Sautéing is a method which involves cooking the onions in a pan, in a very small amount of oil, over a very high heat.  Yet most of the time, people use slightly more oil and a lower temperature so that the onions soften slowly over around 5-10 minutes. Still, the words “fry” and “sautee” are being used everywhere pretty much interchangably. It does seem that people often just use the word “sautee” because it sounds more posh, as most of the time they are really referring to frying…

So I say fry the onions in around half tablespoon of olive oil. Fry it over a medium heat for around 5 minutes or more until softened but not browned.

When the onions are getting soft, add in a crushed garlic clove if desired. I didn’t bother this time because I didn’t fancy cleaning the garlic crusher afterwards… Lazy, I know. Now add your chopped tomatoes and a generous splash of vermouth or wine (I’m guessing I usually use at least 100ml).  Vermouth is amazing for cooking, you can always use it instead of wine in most recipes, and the best part is that it keeps a lot longer than wine so you can always keep it stocked in in your cupboard. Nigella Lawson seems to swear by the stuff as she uses it in most of her recipes.

In goes the Vermouth

Add a generous helping of oregano, stir, and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes. Top up with extra vermouth, wine or water if it starts looking a bit thick. My rule is that if you start seeing the bottom of the pan when you stir, its reduced a bit too much and needs more liquid.

While it’s simmering, now is a good time to roll out your dough.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into three equal pieces. If you are only making two pizzas, now is the time to put one of the three dough balls into the fridge to use another day! Form a piece of dough into a roughly flattened ball, and start rolling! I think the authentic Italian way is to stretch the dough by hand, but I have found the rolling pin a lot easier and it came out a more even thickness this way. Rolling the dough When it is roughly the same size and shape of your 12 inch pizza tray, slip it onto the tray. If it doesn’t quite reach to the edge of the tray start stretching it a little at a time until it does!Stretching dough in pan

At this point I might just mention that a pizza stone would be a lot better than a metal pizza tray. I couldn’t find one at any shops near me in time to satisfy my pizza cravings so I had to use these trays I found at ASDA (that’s Wal-Mart for any of you American readers!). Pizza stones are a lot better though, I have heard. I will eventually get round to ordering one – Tesco sell them online here at a reasonable size and price.

Eventually your rolled out pizza base should fit roughly to the edges of the pan something like this:

Pizza base

Now, when the sauce has been simmering for around 20 minutes, blitz it in a blender/food processor to make a relatively smooth puree. If you don’t have either of these machines, you can either use the sauce as it is – it may be a tad lumpy but I’m sure it would still taste great.

I’ve used a flexi spatula thingy for spreading the sauce before but this time I used a brush. It didn’t make a huge difference though.

Pizza bases with sauce

Now all that’s left is to assemble all the delicious toppings! Actually, not quite all. With this pizza, all you need at first is the cheese and perhaps a small sprinking of oregano. The rest of the toppings go on when the pizza comes out the oven, so they taste nice and fresh.

Thinly slice the mozzarella and distribute evenly on both pizzas. Add around 10 or 15 teaspoon-blobs of the mascarpone on each pizza. It’s hard to tell the mozzarella and mascarpone apart on the picture as they both look like white blobs, so I have helpfully labelled it for you!

 

Mozzarella and mascarponeThe oven should now be at its hottest temperature; once it is, it’s time to put the pizzas in the oven! Do this quickly so the oven doesn’t lose too much heat. All ovens are notoriously different so start checking on the pizzas after 7 minutes but you will find that it may need around 15 minutes.

Don’t rely on the colour of the crust as an indicator of done-ness – depending on your oven it might not go particularly golden. What you really need to do is give the edge of the crust a little tap, if it seems relatively hard and crispy then it’s ready – even if it doesn’t look golden. I only mention this because I have got too hung up on waiting for my bread, pastry, cakes and cookies to become golden before – and these things have always ended up overcooked when I do. I guess it must be my oven.

While the pizzas are in the oven, if you want to be super-efficient like me, get the rest of the toppings ready so they can get on your pizzas ASAP with minimum pizza heat loss!

Rest of the pizza toppings

No need to chop the basil – it looks prettier whole and seems to retain more flavour too! When the pizza is ready and passes the tap-test, time to take it out!

Pizzas coming out the oven

As you can see, my pizzas don’t look like they’re done if you go by the golden-ness of the crust – but in fact hey were perfectly done. You might find they go more golden depending on your oven, however.

They do look horrendously plain and unappetising with just the tomato sauce and cheese, but worry not, they will look great once the rest of the toppings are in place. All that’s left to do now is to gently arrange the prosciutto, rocket and basil! (I did it in that order, not that it really matters!)

The finished pizza!

Ta-da! The perfect pizza is now complete! I used a pizza cutter to cut these into four slices each, I hate to mangle my pizzas more than necessary but making it into tiny slithers! Oh, and don’t forget a little dash of black pepper before serving…

Well, that’s my second post complete – although I guess these two posts are really just one pizza recipe including dough and toppings. I did have my fiance’s assistance taking some of the later photos this time though, which was very handy because although this blog is supposed to be improving my photography skills, it’s quite hard cooking and taking pictures simultaneously!

I’m still not sure I will continue with this format of including pictures of the various recipe stages. I could simply have one or two shots of the final dish, along with a written recipe without pictures. Any feedback on which format is preferred is very welcome! I may even do both – by starting a seperate page on the blog for “printable” versions of the recipe. The printable version would only include one picture of the finished dish, and I would probably cut away some of my blabbering to make the recipe instructions more concise.

Thanks for reading!

– Rebekah

P.S. Here’s a bonus shot of the little bread rolls I made with the leftover third of of the pizza dough, before going into the oven:

Little bread rolls

Just enough for lunch-for-two the next day!

The Best Homemade Pizza Stage 1: The perfect homemade Italian-style pizza dough.

As I type, I am currently kneading bread. Ugh, it’s so hard typing and kneading at the same time…Oh wait, it’s not. It’s as easy as eating a whole pack of jaffa cakes in one sitting. Thankfully, our new Kenwood Chef  takes all the hard work out of making bread, and thanks to its sinister-looking dough hook, I can now make homemade loaves and pizzas every week and not burn a single calorie doing the kneading! Actually, looking down at my steadily growing thighs, I’m not so sure if the calorie thing is something to celebrate…

But homemade pizzas are definitely something to celebrate! Technically you COULD make this pizza dough by hand but I am just too damn lazy, plus the machine does it so much better, and without complaining too. All hail the robot uprising! (Also thanks to fiance’s parents for gifting us with this pricey piece of kit!)

(N.B. Joking aside, seriously feel free to make the dough by hand if you don’t have the machine. It will still be a yummier pizza than the ones Co-op/ASDA/wherever you get your convencience pizzas…)

Now, here’s my recipe for the perfect homemade Italian-style pizza dough, along with a few tips for any beginners out there. Ideally, make the dough about 3 or 4 hours before eating because it means you can let it rise more slowly.

ITALIAN PIZZA DOUGH

Makes enough for three 12 inch thin-crust pizzas.
(As there are only two of us, I make the whole lot of dough but save a third of it for making bread rolls or some other tasty bready treat…)

Ingredients:

  • 400g Type ’00’ flour (sometimes called Grade ’00’)
  •  Half a tablespoon of salt
  • 1 x 7g sachet instant yeast (or dried/fresh equivalent)
  • One tablespoon caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 300ml lukewarm water
About the flour: If you cant procure Type 00 flour, just use strong white bread flour. It comes out almost exactly the same in my experience. Whatever you do though, don’t just use normal plain flour, it won’t come out right.
Method:
Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. If you’re lucky enough to have a machine like mine, sieve it straight into the machine’s mixing bowl. Then make a deep well in the flour.

Flour well

Next, get your lukewarm water ready. It’s better to be on the cooler side of lukewarm, otherwise you risk killing some of the yeast.

Stick the olive oil, sugar and yeast into the lukewarm water and give it a stir. Don’t worry about it being too sweet with the tablespoon of sugar. Trust me, it won’t taste like a cake, I promise. It improves the overall taste of the pizza once the toppings are on, and even if you make this into bread rolls you won’t really notice the sweetness.

Right, now for the salt. You want to sprinkle this all around the edge of the mixing bowl in a kind of perimeter around the top rim of the floury well. I have heard that this is because yeast doesn’t like salt so its best if they don’t touch til the final mixing stage. I can’t vouch for the scientific truth of that hypothesis, but it’s always worked for me.

Salt perimiter

Next, pour the icky-looking yeasty oily water mixture into the nice big well you’ve made in the flour. It won’t all fit in the well and it will spill over the top, but don’t worry about that.

Now, if you have a Kenwood Chef like mine, simply stick on the dough hook and set the speed to around minimum or 1, and leave it for about 10 minutes. Some people say less than this, but I don’t see anything wrong with a well-kneaded dough, and it comes out smoother when I leave it longer. Alternatively, use your hands to knead it like a true caveman! Again, at least 10 minutes would be needed by hand but preferably more. You want to get it as smooth and elasticy as possible. If it is too gloopy, add flour until it becomes less sticky and more smooth. Of course, if it’s too dry, add a little water, but this shouldn’t be the case.

Whizzzz

*Whizzzzz* Or *thump thump thump* I guess if you’re kneading it caveman style.

Eventually, and ideally, it should look like this:

Nice dough ball

Time to let the dough rise! It needs to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, usually an hour is recommended but I chose to leave it for 1 hour 30 minutes while I was writing this blog post and sorting out the pictures for it.

The dough should be left to rise in the mixing bowl you used initially. Prepare a slightly damp tea towel by scrunching it into a ball and running some warm water over it for a few seconds, and cover the bowl with the damp tea towel while it rises. Here’s a little peek at my dough in its rising place:

Right, now 1 hour and 30 has passed, I just checked on it and I can indeed say that it has risen – or as I call it, “gone massive”:

Now you can either roll it out and use it straight away, or even better you can knock it back – just knead it a bit until the air goes out and it goes back somewhere close to its original size. You can now let it rise a second time for another hour or so. I use this time to make the tomatoey sauce for the pizza!

Et voila! Your pizza dough is ready to roll. I will mention and show the rolling step in the next stage of this dastardly plan: Stage 2: Assembling the perfect Italian style pizza! See you there!

P.S. Please ignore any grubby counters, floors etc. you may be able to notice in these pictures! This is my first ever food blog post so I hope you’ll forgive the lack of attention-to-detail in the photography. I’ll get my marigolds on for next time!

[One final piece of advice if you have trouble with rising:  Most people use their airing cupboard to rise dough, but I don’t have an airing cupboard so I leave mine on a warm patch of my kitchen floor where the central heating pipes run underneath. If you don’t have anywhere warm in your house, you can get away with rising it more slowly at normal room temperature. If your house is really cold, put your oven on the lowest temperature possible while preparing the dough. Open the oven door and let most of the heat out. When it feels like the temperature of a warm room, you can put the bread in there to rise. Otherwise you could leave the oven on the lowest temperature and rest the dough on top of the oven hob.]